House of Lords approves UK Government’s extreme abortion regime for Northern Ireland

The House of Lords has voted 355 to 77 in favour of a motion approving the UK Government’s extreme abortion regime in Northern Ireland.

An amendment to the motion, put forward by Baroness O’Loan, calling on peers not to approve the regulations was also defeated, with 112 votes in favour and 388 against.

While tonight’s vote in the House of Lords is a defeat for pro-life campaigners and the people of Northern Ireland they may indicate a change in momentum in the House of Lords.

A far larger group of peers voted against the motion than those who opposed a motion in July 2019 to impose abortion on Northern Ireland, which was only opposed by 37 peers. This indicates that there has been a large increase in the number of active pro-life peers in the House of Lords.

In her amendment, Baroness O’Loan noted the extreme abortion regime has been rejected by the people of Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Assembly.

In addition, her amendment brings attention to how the extreme abortion regime discriminates against those with a disability and allows sex-selective abortion in the first 12 weeks of gestation.

Speaking in the House of Lords tonight, the former police commissioner reiterated that a majority of Northern Ireland’s 90 MLAs voted to reject the regulations and that 79% of consultation respondents were against any change in abortion law.

She also highlighted that over 18,000 people from the province have signed an open letter urging Westminster to let Northern Ireland decide its own abortion laws.

Pleading with her fellow peers, in her closing remarks, Baroness O’Loan said: “listen to the people of Northern Ireland, listen to our Assembly, do not approve these regulations.”

In his amendment, disabled peer Lord Shinkwin called on peers to decline the regulations on the grounds that they discriminate and perpetuate stereotypes against those with a disability.

The peer, who was born with a rare genetic brittle bone disease, told News Letter: “Although technically the regulations only relate to Northern Ireland, the whole UK Parliament is being invited to endorse them and to thereby legitimise disability discrimination.”

Lord Shinkwin did not take his amendment through to a vote.

‘A huge disappointment’

A spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson said: 

“Tonight’s vote in the House of Lords is not just a blow to the people of Northern Ireland and to the majority of MLAs, who voted against the extreme abortion regime at the Northern Ireland Assembly, but is also a huge disappointment for both pro-life campaigners and people with disabilities across the UK. 

“People such as Heidi Crowter and Lord Shinkwin who have expressed that the current law in the UK makes them ‘want to cry’ and tells them ‘they are better off dead’.”

“Following stirring speeches from the likes of Lord Alton, Baroness O’Loan, Lord Shinkwin, Lord Taylor of Warwick, Baroness Stroud, and Lord McCrea a far larger group of peers decided to vote against the regulations than did in 2019. 

This may indicate a change in momentum in the House of Lords with a large increase in the number of active pro-life peers in the House of Lords. 

“Thank you to the thousands of people around the country who have written to peers asking them to oppose these regulations. While we may not have been able to get the result we wanted tonight, your work helped get a far larger group of peers taking a pro-life position on these regulations. This provides an excellent starting point for building further support for positive pro-life changes to abortion legislation in the future.”

What happens next?

Following tonight’s votes in the House of Lord’s, MPs will vote on whether to approve the extreme abortion regime, with the vote likely to take place on Wednesday.

If MPs vote down the redrafted regulations it will send a very strong signal to the Government that these extreme regulations should not be imposed on Northern Ireland.

They will then be forced to, again, redraft the regulations to either be less extreme or bring forward legislation allowing parliament to vote on revoking the regulations.

The second of those options would give back control to the people of Northern Ireland through the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Action alert – Abortion vote Wednesday

Thank you to everyone who has written to peers asking them to vote down the Northern Ireland abortion regulations ahead of this evening’s vote in the House of Lords.

These same regulations will be voted on by MPs in the House of Commons – most likely on Wednesday 17 June.

If they are voted down, this will send a very strong signal to the Government that these extreme regulations should not be imposed on Northern Ireland. 

The Government will then be forced to redraft the regulations, to be less extreme, or bring forward legislation to allow the new Parliament to vote to revoke these regulations, giving back control to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Please click the button below to ask your local MP to vote against these regulations on Wednesday. It only takes 30 seconds.

Once you have emailed your local MP, please do ask friends and family to do the same.

Thank you for your help on this.

New poll finds strong majority in NI oppose new law allowing disability-selective abortion right up to birth

A majority of people in Northern Ireland are against introducing disability-selective abortion up to birth, a new poll has found.

The survey, conducted by Northern Ireland-based pollsters LucidTalk, found nearly three-quarters of respondents (72%) were against abortion to birth for babies with a cleft palate or cleft lip. Only 15% were supportive of introducing abortion to birth for cleft lip or cleft palate.

Over two-thirds (67%) of respondents were also opposed to abortion for Down’s syndrome between 24 weeks gestation up to birth.

The poll, which had 1,878 respondents and was conducted between 3-5 June, is further evidence the people of Northern Ireland do not want Westminster imposing an extreme abortion regime on the province.

New and extreme abortion regulations drawn up by Westminster last year in the absence of a functioning Northern Ireland Assembly came into force in March.

Under the new regime, disability-selective abortion will be available up to the point of birth for all disabilities, including cleft lip, cleft palate, club foot and Down’s syndrome.

Earlier this month, the Northern Ireland Assembly passed a motion opposing the extreme regulations which have been imposed on the province by the UK Government.

Across the two votes held, 75 MLAs voted against the provisions in the regulations allowing abortion for non-fatal disabilities.

However, the UK Government has claimed it has obligations to impose the extreme abortion regime on Northern Ireland – something which has been questioned by two leading lawyers in a House of Lords report and by Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP.

Members of the House of Lords will debate and vote on the regulations today, ahead of a debate and vote in the House of Commons later in the week.

Ahead of the debate, Lord Shinkwin has proposed a motion to decline the regulations on the grounds that they discriminate and perpetuate stereotypes against those with a disability.

The peer, who was born with a rare genetic brittle bone disease, told News Letter:

“This polling demonstrates how out of touch the government is with public opinion in driving these outdated and discriminatory regulations through Parliament.

“Although technically the regulations only relate to Northern Ireland, the whole UK Parliament is being invited to endorse them and to thereby legitimise disability discrimination.”

Baroness O’Loan has also tabled a motion urging peers to reject the Northern Ireland Abortion (Northern Ireland) (No. 2) Regulations 2020.

In her motion, the former police commissioner notes the extreme abortion regime has been rejected by the Northern Ireland Assembly, discriminate against those with a disability and will allow for sex-selective abortion in the first 12 weeks of gestation.

In response to the poll results, DUP MP Carla Lockhart said: “These polling results underline yet again why it is monstrous that the UK government should seek to impose a discriminatory abortion regime on Northern Ireland.”

“In crafting regulations that say it is OK to terminate viable unborn babies between 24 weeks gestation and full-term because they have a non-fatal disability, while saying that viable babies of exactly the same age should be protected from this because they don’t have a disability, the law says loud and clear that the lives of people with non-fatal disabilities are less valuable than those with fatal disabilities, with fatal consequences.”

CARE NI, who commissioned the poll, said the results “highlighted yet again that Westminster is out of touch and the issue of abortion law should be returned to the NI Assembly”.